and weather in the French Alps
Lying at the western end of the Alps, and – for the
of the French Alps – close to the Mediterranean, the French
Alps have a
climate that can be quite different from the eastern parts of the Alps,
such as the Austrian and Tirol Alps, where the weather patterns are
Northern French Alps
Exposed to westerly winds blowing in off the
northern French Alps can receive a lot more snow in winter than areas
further to the east, which benefit from a drier colder continental
This means that in winter, ski resorts in
the Savoy Alps, above an altitude of 1500 metres, almost
snow, often from quite early in the season, particularly if there are
prolonged periods of precipitation coming in off the Atlantic. It also
means that in the event of milder air coming in off the
the snowline in the northern French Alps can easily rise to well above
1000 metres, even in January. But with many resorts offering slopes at
over 2000 metres and up to 3000 metres in some cases, this is not a
major problem for winter sports enthusiasts. The resort of Val Thorens,
for instance, is a resort with guaranteed snow thoroughout the season,
lying as it does at an altitude of 2300 m.
the summer months, the northern French Alps enjoy a warm temperate
climate, with enough rainfall, often in the form of summer storms, to
keep the landscape green and luxuriant. Above an altitude of
about 1000 metres, Alpine meadows and pastures offer rich grazing lands
for cattle, and magnificent displays of wild flowers, including vast
swathes of wild daffodils or wild narcissi.
Average July daily high temperatures in Annecy,
altitude 450 m, are 26°C (79.F), and annual rainfall
is 133 cm:. In this part of the Alps, the rainiest month of the year is
August - much of the rain falling in the form of heavy rainstorms.
There is considerably less rain in May and October
The southern Alps
The southern part of the French Alps is a
area. However the highest areas receive sufficient snow in winter to
provide excellent skiing conditions at resorts such as Isola 2000,
which lies just 90 km from the Mediterranean.
drier, the southern Alps also benefit from plenty of sunshine,
throughout the year. This is one of the sunniest areas in Europe, with
generally over 2500 hours of sunshine per year throughout the area. The
area records only about 90 days of rainfall a year, much of the rain
falling in the form of short heavy showers.
Average July daily high temperatures in Briançon,
altitude 1326 m, are 27°C (81°F) , and the
town boasts 300
of sunshine a year: however the dry climate and the altitude mean that
nights are cool; night time lows average 10° in May, and are
to 13° in October.
Rain patterns in Briancon are
rather different to those in Annecy; July, with 5.6 cm of
is the driest month of the year apart from the winter months; May is
the wettest month, with 10.7 cm of rain.